U.S. officials believe Islamic militants might have planned, carried out attacks in Libya
U.S. officials told NBC News on Wednesday that they couldn’t rule out the possibility that al-Qaeda-inspired Islamist militants were responsible for the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.
Libyan officials and postings on Islamist websites from known militant activists suggested that the attack —which officials had previously suggested was retaliation for release of a movie critical of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad — may also have been revenge for the death of a top al-Qaeda leader in June.
Libyan Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif said in a briefing for reporters Wednesday that the U.S. government should have removed its staff from the country when news of the film’s release broke because of festering tensions surrounding the killing of deputy al-Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi.
“It was necessary that they take precautions,” Sharif said. “It was their fault that they did not take the necessary precautions.”
Libya’s interim president, Mohammed el-Megarif, suggested that the attack was timed to coincide with the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S. to “destroy democracy in Libya.”
In his annual statement marking the anniversary Tuesday, Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called for Islamists to seek revenge for the killing of al-Liby, and online postings Wednesday from Islamist militants celebrated the attack as payback for al-Liby’s death, said Evan Kohlmann, an Middle East and terrorism analyst for NBC News.
Days of planning and online promotion by hard-line Islamist leaders helped whip up the mobs that stormed the U.S. Embassy in Egypt and launched a deadly attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya that killed an ambassador and three others.
As the U.S. tightened security worldwide at embassies and Libya’s president apologized for the attack, details emerged of how the violence began, according to experts who monitor Egyptian media…
The killings there followed demonstrations in front of Cairo’s U.S. Embassy, where protesters tore down the U.S. flag and scaled the embassy’s wall.
The protest was planned by Salafists well before news circulated of an objectionable video ridiculing Islam’s prophet, Mohammed, said Eric Trager, an expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was announced Aug. 30 by Jamaa Islamiya, a State Department-designated terrorist group, to protest the ongoing imprisonment of its spiritual leader, Sheikh Omar abdel Rahman, who is serving a life sentence in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.